The 12 actors behind terrifying movie villains

Bill Skarsgård played Pennywise the Clown in

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Bill Skarsgård played Pennywise the Clown in “IT.”
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Warner Bros./Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

There’s something terrifying about a villain that’s no longer recognizable as a human. From Pennywise the Clown in “It” to Leatherface in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” series, the following characters are so scary looking it makes you forget there’s a real actor portraying them.

Here are 12 actors you didn’t know played your favorite, or least favorite, movie villains.


Behind the makeup, “The Exorcist’s” demon Pazuzu was really a young actress named Linda Blair.

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Linda Blair played the demon Pazuzu.
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Warner Bros./Kevin Winter/GettyImages

According to the Washington Post, legendary special effects makeup artist Dick Smith took the lead on bringing Pazuzu to life – along with his then-assistant, Rick Baker.

To round out the terror and do practical effects for things that Blair simply couldn’t do – such as turn her head around a full 360 degrees – SFX man Marcel Vercoutere built a robotic stand-in for Blair, according to the Hollywood Reporter.


Although you couldn’t recognize him, Robert Englund played Freddy Krueger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

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Robert Englund played Freddy Krueger.
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New Line Cinema/Frederick M. Brown/GettyImages

Starting back at the beginning with makeup artist David Miller and gaining perhaps his most famous look with Crypt Keeper and “Chucky” creator Kevin Yagher, the character of Freddy was even featured in his own makeup documentary called “Nightmares in the Makeup Chair,” reported IGN.


Dr. William Weir from “Event Horizon” is really the actor Sam Neill.

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Sam Neill played Dr. William Weir.
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Paramount Pictures/Cole Bennetts/GettyImages

VFX company Cinesite was responsible for many of the most disturbing visual aspects of the film – including the scene where Sam Neill’s eyes are completely gouged out.

Cinesite’s Sue Rowe described one of her favorite memories of working on this film for VFXblog:

“Charlie Tait and Dave Houghton were fresh out of animation college back then and they took on this shot. They used a cheap flatbed scanner to scan a cabbage leaf and a raw steak combo to make the interior eye sockets. One day my Mum came to the office to see what her ‘little girl’ was up to in this new crazy film industry and she saw us working on this shot. Charlie was adding blood pulsing out of the eyes – she ran out of the office screaming. I was actually pretty proud of the extra attention to detail. I heard that the director loved it!”


There’s a real person underneath the Pinhead makeup — and his name is Doug Bradley.

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Doug Bradley played Pinhead.
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George De Sota/GettyImages

Makeup artist Bob Keen and his team collaborated with writer and director Clive Barker to come up with what would become one of the most iconic horror film characters of all time.

Keen told Daily Dead about how Barker initially thought that nails – as in the kind you hit with a hammer – would do the trick.

“We were having real problems with having to contend with the aesthetics of a six-inch nail, though. It was very crude and it made the design look almost comical when the nails got too deep. I suggested that maybe they should be like thin pins, and because of this series of conversations, through trial and error we ended up with that design of Pinhead, which has become so iconic over time,” he said.

In May 2017, Bradley got back into the makeup and costume for the first time in 12 years.


Ed Gale gave Chucky life in the films.

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Ed Gale discussed playing Chucky for Stream Factory TV.
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Universal Pictures/ ScreamFactoryTV/YouTube

Though it’s Brad Dourif who voices the character of “Chucky,” it’s Ed Gale who brings the doll to life. Gale is the actor inside the Chucky costume in “Child’s Play,” “Child’s Play 2,” and “Bride of Chucky.”

“I am told Tom Holland requested me personally after hearing that I was Howard the Duck,” Gale told iHorror on landing the part. “He wanted someone physically capable of bringing the costume to life. I was known for doing just that.”


The demonic nun from “The Nun” and “The Conjuring 2” is played by actress Bonnie Aarons.

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Bonnie Aarons played the demonic nun in two films.
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Warner Bros./Kevin Winter/GettyImages

Perhaps you recognize Bonnie Aarons from her role as the Baroness Joy von Troken in “The Princess Diaries.”


Underneath it all, Venom is really Tom Hardy.

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Tom Hardy played Venom.
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Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group/Matt Winkelmeyer/GettyImages

About the movie, INSIDER’s Kirsten Acuna said, “Through a clunky movie that feels like it stepped out of Tobey Maguire’s era of ‘Spider-Man’ movies, Hardy is actually the one thing that makes the movie truly worth watching.”

Read more: ‘Venom’ is by no means a good movie but it’s such a riot you won’t want to stop watching


Leatherface has been portrayed by several actors over the years — but the role originated with Gunnar Hansen.

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Gunnar Hansen played Leatherface.
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New Line Cinema/ROBERT F. BUKATY/ApImages

In 2015, USA Today reported that Hansen passed away.

When confirming his death, Hansen’s agent, Mike Eisenstadt, said Leatherface “is one of the most iconic evil figures in the history of cinema.”


In the original “Halloween,” Michael Myers was played by three separate actors throughout the movie.

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Nick Castle was one of the actors to play Michael Myers.
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Photo by Ryan Green – © Universal Pictures

Also referred to as “The Shape” in the film’s credits, Michael Myers is easily one of the most terrifying villains to ever grace the silver screen.

The other two actors who had a hand in crafting this role were Toni Moran and Tommy Lee Wallace.


Jason Voorhees has been portrayed by several actors over the years — but Kane Hodder played him four times.

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Kane Hodder played Jason Voorhees.
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Paramount/David Livingston/GettyImages

Perhaps what helped Jason Voorhees become a horror icon was the makeup artist behind his look, Tom Savini.

Savini also worked on “Friday the 13th” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.


Pennywise the Clown from “It” has been portrayed by two actors, one being Bill Skarsgård.

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Bill Skarsgård played Pennywise the Clown.
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Warner Bros./Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

If playing in one disturbing Stephen King universe wasn’t enough, Skarsgård is also plenty busy these days on the Hulu series “Castle Rock.”

Read more: ‘It’ star Bill Skarsgard lost so much weight for his new role that he’s unrecognizable

Tim Curry was the other actor to embody Pennywise the Clown.


As The Pale Man in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Doug Jones is exceedingly creepy.

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Doug Jones played The Pale Man.
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Warner Bros/Rich Polk/GettyImages

When you first saw him, The Pale Man sat perfectly still at his feast-laden dinner table – looking vaguely menacing, but not overtly terrifying just yet.

And then Ofelia popped a grape in her mouth – even though she knew that she shouldn’t. Unfortunately for her, that awakened both The Pale Man and his insatiable hunger.

It’s worth noting that Guillermo del Toro’s ideas for the design of The Pale Man were originally very different.

David Martí and Montse Ribé from DDT Special Effects had previously worked with del Toro on “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Hellboy” – and Martí told Daily Dead,

“Originally, Guillermo had wanted The Pale Man to have these lips that would go so wide that the skull underneath the skin would then pop out. Then, a skeleton was supposed to crawl out, and Guillermo then wanted him to go down on all fours and transforms into something else, similar to the transformation scene in ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ This was so he would be able to chase Ofelia, because otherwise, he was a blind character, so that meant he couldn’t traditionally find her.”

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